How To Defeat Career Comparison

I originally had something completely different lined up for this week’s article, but then something happened. I was about 2/3 done and had planned to finish it off this morning until I got innocently distracted by an urge to check social media. And what started as your routine social media scroll, turned into a dark hole.

All of sudden I was 10 pages deep into people’s websites, scrolling Pinterest boards, and comparing Instagram likes to follower ratio. I started down the rabbit hole of comparing myself to others by seeing how successful other bloggers were in there social media and websites and it paralyzed me a bit. I kept thinking, am I doing something wrong and that’s why I’m not as successful as X, Y, or Z? Should I stop? Should I create content in a more popular format or style?

And you know what the worst part? I had just done this with my LinkedIn profile 3 nights before. Except at that time I was supposed to be working on a school assignment. Should I be going for my Masters? Am I making enough money? What should I be prioritizing: pension and stability or risk and costs? Should I be going to more networking events and putting myself out more? Do I have too much already on my plate because work is not everything?

Instead of working on things that I actually enjoy like writing, I feel constantly pulled into this world of comparison. And if you think this is just an online phenomenon, I was reminded last night that it is indeed not. I was hanging out with some friends last night, and someone brought up the reminder to the group that year will be our 10 year high school reunion. And that whole comparison thing started up in real-time.

So I woke up this morning (with an upset stomach because omg I can’t eat fried foods like I used to) thinking of all the ways I could overcome this, both in my online world and in my real-life career. These are the 6 strategies that I’m currently using and will start using to tame my desire to constantly wallow in self-comparison:

 

1. Find A Community

It’s so easy to think that everyone else has it all together and you must be the only one struggling. But truth be told, everyone had to start from somewhere (okay, maybe not if you’re a Kardashian).

But everyone is a person. No matter how fancy a website, no matter how beautiful the Pinterest board or Instagram aesthetic, every single person behind an account is a person with insecurities and doubts just like you.

So instead of assuming that everyone has their careers and life together with the perfect jobs and life, try connecting with people to share the good and the bad. Find a community or build of a community of people in similar situations with you and help each other get better. For me, that’s a Facebook group of bloggers I’ve recently joined a few weeks ago. Prior to the group, I posted an Instagram post shouting out some of my favourite personal development bloggers who are new bloggers. Then shortly after, one of the girls started an Instagram and then we moved over to Facebook and more and more bloggers with similar goals joined. We help each other out, we share behind the scenes of what’s working and not working for us as bloggers and it’s so encouraging to be with people that help and share the insecurity side, not just the perfect Instagram side. And on that note, that leads me to my next point:

 

2. Share Instead Of Compare

When it comes to my career,  finding a community has not been as easy. Not because there aren’t a ton of networking events, but because in my experience networking events are wonderful for making professional connections, not insecurity connections.

I’ve been going to networking events since  I was about 16 and in my experience, they are mostly about people talking about how great their careers are and how to collaborate or well, expand their network. I’m not saying all events are filled with self-serving people, but it is on some basics about yourself. That’s kind of the point. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some incredible people at networking events, that event I went to when I was 16? I met a friend that lived halfway across the country and we’ve been keeping in touch for the last 10 years and recently had dinner when he is town. Networking definitely has its time and place but it’s not exactly where you blurt out all your insecurities, and doubts about your personal life and career to complete strangers while you stuff your face with appetizers to make up for the ticket to get in. Just me? Okay.

I’ve learned that when it comes to community, they can also be super small.  Comparison in itself is not a bad thing, it’s only natural. I compare chocolates before I’m about to eat them. It doesn’t mean I necessarily think one is bad, it’s just different. That’s probably a bad example but I the point I’m trying to make is that I’m not trying to fully stop comparing myself. Because that’s a losing battle, but I am going to use it to my advantage.

There are 3 people that I openly share everything with. We know each other’s salaries, work progress, and insecurities in our career. We share real hard numbers, and is that a comparison? Yes. But instead of using that information to feel bad about myself – I use it to my advantage. If someone else makes more money in a similar career as me, I start learning why instead of speaking to myself negatively of how I should be earning more and asking myself, what’s wrong with me? Recently, I’ve learned that a big reason I start to become unhappy in my career is because I’m not a strong enough advocate for myself. It’s okay for me to ask for more compensation when I’m doing more work, and it’s okay for me to make professional recommendations about how to improve the workflows in my office. I used to think that this would sound like I was constantly complaining, but it’s not complaining if I communicate it in a professional manner. I wouldn’t have started doing that if I didn’t learn how a friend recently got a raise because of how she had advocated for herself. Instead of just sitting there being envious, I used her strategies to my advantage. It would have been easy for me to be jealous of her higher salary, but it was better for me to learn how she got there. She is far better at negotiating than me and that’s something that I have to personally work on.

The only difference between the feeling of self-pity and empowerment when it comes to comparing yourself to others is all in how you internalize and view it. The information in itself is not evil, and you can use it create positive change instead of constantly logging out of LinkedIn so you can view someone’s profile without them knowing. Just me? Okay.

 

3. Make Other People’s Lives Better

I think a common way to look at how to stop comparing yourself to others is about being happy for other people’s accomplishments. And while that’s really good advice, in theory, that’s not so easy to practice. Of course, I’m happy for other people’s accomplishments, I’m not sitting here wishing bad things on anyone, I’m just jealous.

But jealousy is not a helpful emotion. And telling myself to be happy for others is not enough to actually stop me from comparing myself to others. While it’s a good thing to say and even feel, “I’m happy for them!” it doesn’t help my situation exactly. So instead, I’m trying to make other people’s lives better. I’m a big believer in the feeling of altruism. It makes me happy to make other people happy. So instead of comparing myself to others and why they are so far along in their careers, I focus inward into my own and more specifically, think about how I can make the lives of the people I work with and for, easier? How can I do better?

I know it’s so incredibly cheesy and so over-quoted that people may scroll past this part, but I also believe in the Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I know, it’s been Pinterested-out and plastered on every coffee mug, notebook, and any other piece of inspirational object a store can sell, but I still think it’s true.

Actually, for me, the re-inspiration of this quote is actually seeing the rise of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I’ve followed her campaign from the beginning, and as someone who has worked in government for years,  I am in complete admiration of Alexandria. If you don’t know who she is, she’s basically the most badass 29-year-old to ever walk into Congress. She’s bold, relatable, and she’s taking names. I love her. And I’m not even American! Anyways, my point is that working in government all these years kind of made me jaded towards the U.S. government because of the Trump Administration. But Alexandria challenged that, and not only did she take it head on, but she also did something about it.

And so if I’m ever feeling like I’m not “enough” in my current career, I remind myself to do something about it. I recently had a guest speaker in one of my classes echo the same sentiment. He had multiple accomplishments in his career and he said that he never thought of himself as anyone special – with special gifts that somehow allowed him to achieve this accolades, he just made sure he was making people’s lives better.

There’s a lot of things that people can debate when it comes to career, like your qualifications, your experience, and even your grades, but there’s one thing that people can’t ever tear down, and that’s results. I’ve learned that solving problems and making other people’s lives easier is the one thing that cannot argue with.

No one can say that Alexandria doesn’t deserve her seat at Congress, she got elected. She made it happen. And no one can say to that guest speaker in my class that he didn’t deserve his accomplishments, the results speak for themselves – his ideas worked.

Comparing yourself to others can feel unfair, but I’ve learned the most successful people are not people are thinking about themselves and what they can do for themselves, it’s people who think about others and how they can help others.

 

4. Look Through My Highlight Reel Instead Of Others

I know when I’m getting older because I’ve started forgetting parts of my life. Like straight up, all the time, I just forget the things I’ve done or accomplished sometimes. Actually all the time.

So when I start to feel that wave of jealous flow from my fingertips to my brain as I’m definitely overanalyzing everything, I start rolling through my highlight wheel instead. Sometimes it’s my own Instagram, website, or LinkedIn page and sometimes it’s photos and resume. I’ve completely forgotten some of my life accomplishments both in my professional and personal life.

These are just a series of things I remembered I forgot in the past little while:

» I won a national scholarship going into my undergrad which made a significant difference in graduating with no debt.
» I’ve worked on some incredible projects and people including working on intellectual property. I forgot about that.
» I recently secured a full-time permanent job in the government with full benefits. And while I’m still in this job, I forget sometimes how rare that is to come across. I didn’t realize it until recently when I was talking to someone about it and how difficult it was to find a permanent position. I took that for granted.

And even if it’s not your career, think about all the things you’ve accomplished in your personal life. Accomplishments are not reserved only for careers. I know people who have incredible careers, have glowing accomplishments and make more money than I’ll ever see in my entire lifetime. But they also work really hard. And a lot. And while everyone’s different, I’ve always chosen to balance my career with my personal life like seeing my friends and family and traveling. So even if it’s not your professional achievements, make sure you remind yourself of your personal achievements.

Some of the personal achievements I’ve made in the last few years (and forgot) were;

» I swam in Jellyfish Lake (with real jellyfish!) on a remote island near Guam (it was Palau and I highly recommend if you’re a diver too).
» I took a cooking class in Florence and learned how to make pasta by scratch.
» I did a team triathlon in my undergrad. Three of my friends literally had to convince me that I did this because I totally forgot until I saw the photos on Facebook.
» I visited so many historical sites that have really shaped how I view the world like the Holocaust memorial in Poland, the Killing Fields in Cambodia, and the memorials/church of the Rwandan Genocide in Rwanda. I’m really proud to have prioritized forgotten histories in my travels. 

There are so many things I’ve forgotten because I’m always on the go. I’m the type of person that’s already looking to move on and accomplish the next thing as soon as possible. And so sometimes I get caught up in the world of comparison, but I encourage you to switch courses sometimes. Instead of comparing yourself to literal strangers on the internet, compare yourself to who you used to be and how far you’ve come. 19-year-old Kim couldn’t have even fathomed the person I have become.

 

5. Think About The Long Game

I think it’s so easy for everyone to think of our careers like we have to accomplish all these things in such a short frame of time like before we are 30. But a career is a long game, it’s not something that just ends when we are 30, or 40, or even 50.

This is a very personal opinion, but I’m starting to see how obnoxious it is to say that 25 is “getting old.” I read a post the other day and went to the “About” page of the blog and she talked about she was getting old at 26 and that was somehow limiting. And I wanted to shake her (in a friendly Serena Vanderwoodsen to Blair Waldorf during the Waldorf Spring photoshoot way) and tell her “yes you are getting older than yesterday, but it’s so young in the long run!”

In this generation, more than ever, people don’t tend to stick to one career forever.

In this generation, more than ever, people don’t tend to stick to one career forever. And yet we act like you have to figure out exactly who you are as early as possible. If you start working full-time in a career at 25 and retire around 65, that’s literally 40 years to figure out who and what you want to do to create a fulfilling life.

And there’s this race to have it all figured it out when we’re 30? Something doesn’t add up. So instead of worrying and panicking that you’re not going to make it,

Yes, of course, there are going to be people who have lots of accomplishments when they are young. But there are also plenty of people who didn’t make it until they were well out of their 20s and even out of their 30s – JK Rowling, Oprah, and Steve Jobs didn’t have their lives figured out at 25.

So when you start thinking about a career – think about it in the long game, in the long term and work towards it every day, even if it’s just a tiny bit at a time. The persistence will get you there faster than thinking one day the most magical, perfect job will land in your lap and all of sudden you will be a quote/unquote “success.”

If you have trouble thinking about it in this mindset, I try to think of it like I was back in my first year of high school. You know how in high school, you thought you had to have it all together and all you could see was getting to senior year and then going to college and your life would just be magically set after that? But it never turned out that way? That’s how I like to think of my career in my 20s. It’s just the start.

This is only the beginning. Careers span an entire lifetime and they can change and diverge and you can find fulfillment in ways that you couldn’t have possibly imagined. A great example of this is the Second Life podcast where women talk about how they were on one career path, and then their careers took a hard turn and it didn’t turn out the way they had originally planned.

I’m a big believer in the best is yet to come. I mentioned early that the 19-year-old version would be so proud of how far I’ve come in 8 years. I hope I’m making the 50-year-old version of me proud right now too.

6. Accept My Priorities

As much as we all like to think it on social media, no one has it all.

Everyone has different ups and downs in life and while it may look like it, we never know truly what people are going through. We all have priorities and we all make choices.

And for a long time, I didn’t choose my career. And I have to accept that. I’ve always told myself that I could not be envious of other people’s career because to honest, 99% of the time, I didn’t earn it. I didn’t go to grad school, so I can’t be envious of people that have better careers than me because they did. They put in the effort and they took the risk. I’ve always contemplated going back to grad school but I can’t justify the debt, not in my career path. But that’s my choice and I have to live with it.

Recently though, I’ve had to remind myself of the good in the things I have prioritized, and a big priority for me has been and always be my family and if you didn’t guess it from before, travel. I started off my career in government in Ottawa and could have stayed there to advance my career, but my family is in Vancouver. I also took off a few years to really travel and do everything I had ever wanted, rather than work towards a career and I don’t regret a minute of my experiences. It shaped the person I am today and how I see the world and my priorities.

Putting my family before my career was also really important to me. And a couple of years, I lost someone really close to me and that investment really paid off because I was surrounded by love, not just a career title.

 

 

I get it, I really do. It’s so hard not to compare yourself to other people’s careers and wonder if you are not enough, if you are behind, or if this is all your career will ever be. But I’ve learned that feeling doesn’t get me anywhere, instead I try to focus on the good and consistently keep challenging myself and working hard.

Good luck!

Kimberly ✨

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